Discipline, reward, punishment, and control are all words associated with parenting. Open most books and magazines for parents and you will find lists of things you can do to maintain order and control. While some of the ideas work for a while, you still seem to be in a state of conflict, never achieving the results you want. How can this be?
You’re a kind loving parent who only wants the best for her child. You read parenting books and magazines and spend time with her; yet raising a child is so difficult. What more can you do?
Be consciously present. What does this mean? Pay attention to your child, making an effort to get to know your child in the same way you would get to know a stranger.
How well do you really know your child? “Of course I know my daughter,” my father would reply, “what a silly question!” Sadly, even though he’s been in my life for over 40 years, he doesn’t know me at all. He has perceptions and assumptions about me, but his perceptions of me are not who I really am.
Your child is as unique as his fingerprint. There is no one else like him in the world. He may behave like his father, but he isn’t his father. She may look like your mother- in-law, but she isn’t that person. Making assumptions about your child based on her looks or behaviour limits you from ever really getting to know the unique person he is.
From the moment a child is born we begin assigning labels and expectations to her. She is talkative, naughty, good, clever, stubborn-just like my mom. “He’s got long legs I’m sure he’ll be an athlete like Uncle Johnny,” and so on. These labels not only teach him how he should be, but restrict him from ever truly finding out who he is because this has been pre determined by those around him.
In our attempts to make sure our children are successful we tend to tell them what they should do and how they should be, inadvertently stifling their passions, and sometimes imposing our dreams on them.
It is only by emptying our minds and being consciously present in the moment everyday with our children that we can ever begin to really know them. We have to tune into them in the same way we dial into a radio station: we don’t always understand what is being said- sometimes we have a clear connection and at other times it is fuzzy and we have to listen a little harder. Sometimes we have to listen to a song over and over before really understanding the words or the meaning behind the language. From time to time we can’t dial in at all as there is no connection and we have to try again.
We really have to pay attention to what we hear on the radio if we want to remember anything, and so it is with children. We have to tune in to them to really understand them.
Let them be by consciously paying attention to who they are. Keep the connection clear and strong by taking an interest in what gives them joy and pleasure. Let them express their desires, dreams and wishes without passing judgment. Allow them to make mistakes and learn from their failures. Teach, guide and support, but let them discover their own uniqueness and in doing so fill them with a special kind of love – of feeling understood by their parents.